Predicting crime: Police use cutting edge technology to stop crime
There is a movement afoot in the criminal justice system to look into the future. Forecasting has been used for sentencing, community supervision and now what is known as “predictive policing.” Forecasting for police involves crunching data to determine where to send officers to thwart would-be thieves and burglars.
Los Angeles Police Department is the largest agency to embrace the forecasting experiment. Early successes could serve as a model for other cash-strapped law enforcement agencies, but some legal observers are concerned it could lead to unlawful stops and searches that violate Fourth Amendment protections, reported the Oklahoman.
In the San Fernando Valley, where the program was launched late last year, officers are seeing double-digit drops in burglaries and other property crimes. The program has turned enough in-house skeptics into believers that there are plans to roll it out citywide by next summer.
“We have prevented hundreds and hundreds of people coming home and seeing their homes robbed,” police Capt. Sean Malinowski told the Oklahoman.
Crime mapping has long been a tool used to determine where the bad guys lurk. The idea has evolved from colored pins placed on a map to identifying “hot spots” via a computer database based on past crimes and possible patterns.
Over the past decade, many large police departments, including Los Angeles and New York City, have used CompStat, a system that tracks crime figures and enables police to send extra officers to trouble spots.
The new program used by LAPD and police in the Northern California city of Santa Cruz is more timely and precise, proponents said. Built on the same model for predicting aftershocks following an earthquake, the software promises to show officers what might be coming based on simple, constantly calibrated data — location, time and type of crime.
According to the Oklahoman, the software generates prediction boxes — as small as 500 square feet — on a patrol map. When officers have spare time, they are told to “go in the box.”
The goal is not to boost the number of arrests, a common police benchmark to reflect crime reduction. Officers want to either intercept a crime in progress or deter would-be criminals.
“I want to disrupt an activity before an arrest is made,” Malinowski said. “You can't arrest your way out of some of these problems.”
Jeff Brantingham, an anthropology professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, said the data also is derived from criminal behaviors — repeat victimization and the notion that criminals tend not to stray too far from areas they know best.
“If you are victimized today the risk that you'll be a victim again goes way up,” Brantingham told the Oklahoman.
An analysis of crime and punishment from the perspective of a former prosecutor and current criminal justice practitioner.
The views expressed on this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the opinions or postions of any county, state or federal agency.